What is there to do in Montreal?
A Little About Montreal
Located in Canada, Montreal is the biggest city in the Quebec region. It’s an island in the St. Lawrence River that was originally named Ville-Marie, or “City of Mary.” It was also initially home to aboriginal people. After a rich history with lasting cultural significance, it stands now as it does today with its bilingual (French and English speaking) residents. It has also hosted various international events such as the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, as well as the 1976 Summer Olympics, the only Canadian city having done so. In 2018, it was declared as an Alpha World City, by the Globalization and World Rankings Research Institute.
Montreal is one of the top tourist destinations of the world as of now. Its huge historical significance, global importance, and vibrant nightlife make it a city you have to visit on your next Canadian trip. This brings us to the following question: what is there to do in Montreal? Read on for an answer you’ll surely appreciate.
1. Visit Old Town Montreal
If you want to take a chronological route through the city, Old Town Montreal is definitely where you should head to first. The French population refers to it as Vieux Montreal, and you can witness all kinds of impressive architecture here. From early 19th century establishments to skyscrapers, this place has got it all.
The delightful news about this magical haven is that you don’t even have to pay a penny to witness the charm of its cobblestone streets; there’s actually a free walking tour that begins at 4:30 in Vauquelin Place. It’s best to register for it online so as to avoid any hassles.
The French charm and European architecture of Old Town Montreal can really make you feel like you’ve stepped out of a time machine. If you want to experience it all thoroughly, head over to St. Paul Street. Taking a tour of the place would definitely be a valuable learning experience. Other sites that you definitely must check out in Old Town Montreal, include Place Jacques Cartier, the Notre Dame Basilica at Place d’Armes, as well as the Bonsecours Market, which happens to be the oldest and largest marketplace in Old Port Montreal. You definitely don’t want to miss this fresh breath of culture and history for the world.
2. Have a Glimpse of the Whole City During a Mount Royal Hike
This small mountain is more akin to a hill and climbing it is pretty easy. A 15-minute hike or a bus or taxi ride would offer you a breathtaking view of the entire city. There’s nothing you can’t see from here!
Moreover, Mount Royal happens to be the centerpiece of Montreal. If you pay a little attention to both names, you’ll see that they’re very alike. Mount Royal. Montreal. It’s because Mount Royal is actually the namesake! Thus, an excursion to this top destination is a must for any Montreal trip.
Furthermore, Mount Royal is also a huge park that reaches almost 700 acres. It’s the great outdoors brought to the comfort of the city. There’s honestly so much to do here: walk along the forested pathways, ski across the trails, have a picnic in the shade, set aside a blanket, and enjoy the sun. You could honestly spend a whole day at Mount Royal and not get bored. It’s a relaxing addition to any Montreal holiday (and even an excellent place to unwind after a regular week of work if you’re a resident).
3. Ride the La Grand Roue de Montreal
Another spot that offers a brilliant view of the city is the Ferris Wheel of Montreal, also known as La Grand Roue de Montreal. At 60 meters high, it offers up the loveliest view of the city. Since it’s so high up, it’s a good option for thrill-seeking kids and adults alike! The kaleidoscopically fantastic lighting just adds another charm to the attraction.
The best part about La Grand Roue de Montreal is that you can visit it during any season you like; the cabins are heated during the winter, and air-conditioned come summertime. Sunny afternoon goodness, Christmassy snowscapes, the city all dressed up for Halloween in the fall. You get to see all these sighs, and more!
A lovely date idea is to dress up and take your special someone into one of these intimate cabins during sunset times. Watch the sunset from high above its level and bask in the glory and beauty of nature at this godly time.
If you’re already reeled in, you’d like to know that the site offers many packages for tourists. There’s the day and night package, which allows you to enjoy two drastically different views of the city. An early bird special in the early mornings sells for half the price! For more accurate information, it’s best to contact the management directly. So what are you waiting for?
Go get the 411 on La Grand Roue de Montreal ASAP!
4. Say “Hello” to Mother Nature at the Montreal Botanical Garden
Detach from the hustle and bustle of the city (are you happy in this modern world?) at the Montreal Botanical Garden, also known as Jardin Botanique. This isn’t just one single garden, mind you. They have a variety of gardens and plants stretching for miles. The plethora of gardens includes a Japanese garden, an alpine garden, even a Chinese garden. There’s a niche for every nature lover (or soon to be nature lover) here for sure.
Various festivals are organized in this area, including the Gardens of Light, which is definitely something you don’t want to miss out on. During these nights, hundreds of charming silk lanterns adorn every surface of the Chinese Garden, creating a fantastic night to spend with loved ones and appreciate the marvels of nature at the same time.
Also, be sure to check out the greenhouses! They close earlier than the Botanical Gardens but getting in is entirely worth it. There are some ten greenhouses at the Jardin Botanique, all having different themes, just like the gardens. There’s one for lush ferns, and also one dedicated entirely to plants from arid regions. A lot of work goes into maintaining this place, and it surely pays off in the love that visitors have for it.
It doesn’t end there. The Botanical Gardens feature an insectarium as well as a planetarium. The place is a fully immersive educational experience for kids and grown-ups of all ages. Head on over to the Jardin Botanique website to find out more about entry rates and other regulations.
5. Hop on a Montreal Boat Tour (plus other activities)
Le Bateau-Mouche, which translates to “fly boat” in French, is a great option to kick pack and take a tour of the magical city from a unique angle. These tours usually cost around 25 CAD per head, excluding tax. They give you about an hour to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of Montreal from an angle you’ve never seen before.
If the weather is cold and you were hoping to take a boat cruise tour, do not fret! They even offer covered panoramic boat tours that usually serve dinner on board. All tours are accompanied by live guides who impart information in French and English, so it’s an educational experience too.
Another fun thing you can do on a boat is enjoy all the spa facilities aboard the Bota Bota. You heard that right! The Bota Bota is a ferryboat turned spa that also beholds great views of Habitat 67 and Old Port. Unlike le Bateau-Mouche, it stays moored in place, but the spa experience on waves is to die for. The spa facilities feature a Nordic water circuit with spas and saunas along with gardens for chilling in during the winter. When you’re done with your massage and beauty treatments, be sure to indulge yourself at La Traversée, the restaurant onboard!
You can also explore the Lachine Canal on a paddleboat. Each section of the canal has different sites to behold, so you’ll never be bored. The canal is physically located in the South-Western end of the island and runs from Old Port to Lake Saint-Louis. The 14.5 kilometers of water are ideal for relaxing and chatting. Be sure to keep your camera handy; you don’t want to miss any of the scenes that this beauty has to offer. Immortalize the magic, you’ll want it back later!
6. Go Wild at the Montreal Biodome
Originally built as a center for cycling and judo during the Olympic events of summer 1976, the Montreal Biodome is now an indoor zoo where you can explore up to 200 different species of animals and another 500 different kinds of plants. It also features an indoor aquarium, as well as representations of the four diverse ecosystems found in North America, and even some sub-Antarctic islands too!
The place also houses a tropical rainforest, the humidity and greenery of which eerily resembles its wild counterpart. The penguin exhibit that lives here hosts species of penguins that are native to Canada and cannot be found anywhere else. The Montreal Biodome has indeed brought the jungle to you.
If you don’t want this nature spree to end there, head on over to the Montreal Botanical Gardens that happen to be nearby or find yourself at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium for an equally fun and educational time.
Also, don’t get confused between the Montreal Biodome and the Montreal Biosphere. Although they sound similar, the Biosphere is a dome-shaped Museum, unlike the indoor zoo and sanctuary of the Biodome. You can visit it at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saint Helen’s Island. The exhibits at the museum are all dedicated to the environment, so if it happens to be on your route, do check it out.
7. Have a Blast, Partying in Downtown
Aside from the cultural monuments and natural attractions, what Montreal is also known for is its happening nightlife. Unlike the United States, the legal drinking age here is 18. That, combined with a lot of inner-city university campuses and residences, makes this place party central.
Hip and pumping bars like the Underground Forest Supper Joint and Club Soubois are generally open till 3 in the morning. The party is far from being over at that time, though, since places like Stereo Nightclub offer all sorts of after-hours entertainment options.
There are also areas lined on either side with bars and clubs, such as Crescent Street. On the weekends, when everyone is in town, the party just doesn’t seem to end here.
Notable places to visit include the Cabaret Mado. Run by Mado Lamotte since 2002, the area is Montreal’s number 1 drag queen cabaret. The nights are filled with all sorts of entertaining performances followed by crazy moves on the dance floor. Entertainers even include contestants from Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Go wild! Oh, and the closer you sit to the main stage, the more likely it is that the hostess will roast you.
Another party place is Café Cléopâtre. It features sultry, exotic dancers on the ground floor strip club, and a cabaret upstairs that is home to some of the best burlesque and drag performances in town. This place was the reason that Montreal used to be referred to as the Paris of North America. If you happen to be visiting at that time, the first Saturday of every month is Bareoke night, which tastefully combines stripping with karaoke. Truly wild times!
Although you can find parties anywhere in the world, the nightlife in Montreal is just not to be missed. There are so many options and events, and most of them all happen to be very diverse and welcoming.
8. Indulge your Inner Artist (and critique) at the Phi Centre (among other places)
The Phi Centre features work from local and foreign artists alike. This is no ordinary art center: the work on display here is multidisciplinary, ranging from the visual arts to less traditional routes along the lines of aural, olfactory, tactile, and much more. Technology is an integral part of the exhibits, and there is as much technologically heavy work here as there is analog.
Sustainability is one of the main themes of the establishment, and every facet is built with it in mind. The Phi Centre is also home to a green roof, beehives, and an urban garden.
Food Core events are also part of the calendar year of the place. Trust us when we tell you, a Food Core event is undoubtedly something you don’t want to miss while in Montreal. They’re extremely critically acclaimed by top chefs and food critics alike. Heaven for your taste buds!
Unconventional art can also be enjoyed on the streets of Saint-Laurent. The street art tour here allows you to take in the graffiti-laden walls of the streets. During summertime, all kinds of talent gather here along with fresh paint to create thoughtful art pieces that remain all year long. There are fairs, dancing, food, and much more. It’s genuinely a lovely affair. Events to attend if you happen to be there at the time include the mural festival in June as well as Under Pressure, which takes place in August. Keep an eye out for local talent, who knows who you could run into.
Yet another feast for the artsy eyes is the Musée d’Art Contemporain. This establishment is home to curated art collections and over 8000 paintings from 1500 different artists. The Musée d’Art Contemporain was founded in 1964 and is Canada’s first contemporary art museum. Like the Phi Centre, exhibits aren’t just limited to visuals. Performing arts exhibits are featured in the museum regularly. In addition to that, there are always lectures and workshops taking place here.
So what is there to do in Montreal? The obvious answer is plenty! No matter who you are and what you like doing, there will always be something to interest you in this magic place. Are you a history buff or lover of culture? Old Town Montreal is the place for you. Were you hoping to sightsee? Look no further! There are so many options, ranging from the Mount Royal hike to all the various boat tours. The Montreal Ferris wheel also adds a lot of thrill to the sights. You can also get up close and personal with nature at the Montreal Botanical Gardens, or say hello to all the local and international species housed at the Montreal Biodome.
Do you prefer paintings to nature? There’s so much incredible art for you to marvel at in the Phi Centre as well as the Musée d’Art Contemporain. And if, at the end of the day, you miss the parties back at home, fill that right up with the talent that places like Cabaret Mado and Café Cléopâtre like to boast of. When you’re tired from touristing, there’s always the onboard spa at Bota Bota. As you can see, “what is there to do in Montreal?” is a question that has an endless list of answers.